Baru, The Houseman

Background

I want to tell you the story of the Telet.

Our ancestors were born on the Blessed Isle. This was during the Time of Spiritual Awakening, four hundred years ago. We split with the Immaculate Order. They would have hunted us down. But we obeyed the laws. We paid our taxes. We venerated the Five Immaculate Dragons. The prefect was one of us. They didn’t want to risk it.

They couldn’t run us out, but… the magistrates had to listen to them. They arrested us for nothing. They spat on us when no one was looking. They told other people that we were unclean. All we did was wear the veil. When there was a new prefect, the people came pounding on our doors. With torches. Some of the Immaculates were there with them. They wore hats, so you couldn’t tell their heads were shaven.

Those who escaped left the Blessed Isle. We came to the South. Many cities sent us away before we came here. The Shirakhi took us, but they wouldn’t accept silver for our taxes. Instead, we have to pay in saffron and palm oil. The tax for each person is almost more than one of us can farm. They gave us some land out here, among the Wathia. It’s the worst of the lands, but they took it from you to give to us, to make you hate us.

I started cleaning houses when I was six, because my family was rich among the Telet, and we didn’t have to farm the poisoned lands for tax-crop or teff. That’s rich for us. Being able to clean houses and do laundry. Being able to use the marketplace – at night, as the law says we must – to sell what little our fellow Telet could save from the crops. Being allowed to speak to the Shirakhi.

When I grew up, I married a fisherwoman – another Telet like me. We have three children. I keep the house. She works on the ship. The captain sleeps them three to a bunk so they can store more fish. She brings us her silver, so we can buy thimbles packed with saffron to pay the taxes. At home I teach the children to clean. I listen to rumors and legends. And my parents and I teach my children their history.

The night of the meteor. I know you remember it. Something happened to me that night.

I can find the rest of us for you.

All I want is better treatment for my people. For one of us to have a seat at the fire with the rest of you. To be able to carry iron again. To not have to climb palm trees as children until we’re so worn out that we have to bend over the saffron flowers for the rest of our lives. Help my people and I’ll find the others for you.

Appearance

baru-500

Baru wears a blue headscarf at all times, marking him as one of the Telet. (They refer to this as “the Veil.”) It conceals his hair and covers his face from mid-nose down. He has sparse eyebrows, dark brown eyes, and tanned khakhi skin with pink undertones. His hands are worn from years of work. Other than the scarf, he typically wears a brown shirt and loose khakhi pants.

Demeanor

Quiet, considerate, and deferential. Baru never speaks to one of the Wathai on his own behalf, instead asking on behalf of others. He speaks to the Shirakhi only in reverent tones, with eyes cast downward. His speech to Kala above is perhaps the bravest and most forthright he has ever been. The Telet call this code of conduct Proper Face. He models “proper” behavior for his children, and makes sure that they will know how to treat those who rule these lands.

Among his own people, he is more open, able to joke and laugh without fear of retribution, at least among those who can do “soft work” as he does. Those who must do “hard work” like picking saffron or climbing palm trees sniff angrily at him, seeing him as colluding with their oppressors.

Intimacies: My people need a better life (defining), I love my wife and children (major), Show Proper Face (major), Teach the young, Respect the wise

Capabilities

Baru’s greatest gift is his insight. He’s not strong or fast, he doesn’t have a captivating personality (at least not outside the Telet), but he’s very intelligent and doesn’t miss a thing. He knows several languages. He has memorized the rituals of both the Telet faith and the Immaculates. Before the night of the meteor he would watch the people of his town and guess at the details of their lives. Then it fell, and his eyes were opened.

As a Twilight-caste Solar with supernal Investigation, Baru can see the past in the present. Minor tics in personality reveal personality traits; personality traits reveal life experiences. Baru’s senses are also expanded: he can see through lies, see concealed trails, find hidden doors, and even scent the presence of ghosts and spirits.

Baru also learned to bind his children’s wounds when they were young. Memories from the First Age float through his mind, showing him the secret pathways of essence that flow through the human body. He can identify any illness, numb pain, and counter poisons. When the need is pressing, he knows shortcuts that let him treat people in seconds.

Baru is a non-combatant. He lacks both the training and the temperament for battle.

Supporting Characters

  • Ioma, his oldest son. Respectful, studious, squeamish.
  • Rene, his wife. Daring, loving, dependable.
  • Asphetho, the captain of his wife’s ship. Talented, cultured, meticulous.
  • Umor, a Telet leader that Baru would like to see at the table. Wise, tactful, cautious.

Questions

  • How would Baru respond to a direct order from his queen?
  • How much does Baru tell Kala about the Solars he finds? What might he hold back?
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